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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: John Davis
Label: Rambler Records
Time: 12 tracks/ 48:24
Count up the number of people that you know named John Davis. The local telephone book alone has 4 listings with that name. It's certain that none of those know rock and roll like John Davis. His self-titled release sweeps across a path of 40 years of influences, picking out the most choice ingredients for a straight-up rock and roll tour de force.
This John Davis is the front man for the band 'Superdrag', so you may have heard this John Davis before. Besides their big 1996 hit, “Sucked Out,” Superdrag's music has been featured on many compilation CD's and also on the “Dude, Where's My Car” soundtrack. Superdrag's sound can be compared to bands like 'Weezer' or 'Fountains of Wayne'. A couple of the tracks on this CD follow in that vein. The rest of the disc pays homage to classic rock and roll influences in a fresh and enticing manner.
For example, in “Me and My Girl,” the ringing jangle of a Rickenbacker guitar provides the foundation of the song that could be Roger McGuinn's from the Byrds, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covering the Byrd's “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” except Davis is a much better singer than Tom Petty. Ok, so that's not such a great compliment. It's a great tune nonetheless.
“Nothing Gets Me Down” and “Too Far Out” could be new Superdrag songs, with distorted guitars on the 8ths throughout both tracks. “Jesus Gonna Build Me a Home” is a gospel rock track about putting our hopes in heaven and not on things of this earth. A little ZZ Top southern rock comes through in “Have Mercy.” Here comes the sound of Beach Boys vocals in “Stained Glass Window” and “I Hear Your Voice.” Imagine Mr. Reginald Kenneth Dwight (aka Elton John) singing a bluesy gospel song and you have “Lay Your Burden Down.” As if the sonic cornucopia isn't broad enough, Davis' song on the disc opens up in a 6/8 country rock shuffle featuring pedal steel guitar and sweet vocal harmonies that might just be the Eagles. f you want to hear some mp3 snippets of each track of John's disc, they can be found here: http://worddistribution.com/_products.php?mode=detail&pID=1977 Unfortunately, the official John Davis website listed only has mp3 files for a promotional EP that contains 5 of the 12 cuts on the full CD.
While it may seem like there might be too much stylistic variety on this disc, the refreshing thing is that these modern and classic rock sounds are coupled with straight out Christian lyrics. Back in the day of these sounds' popularity, there wasn't much to pick from in the Christian music scene. About the only standouts were Keith Green and later on, Petra. Slide in John Davis' new disc, and you can revisit some of the best sounding music from the late '60's and '70's, with modern production quality, and unmistakable Christ-focused lyrics. John didn't pull any spiritual punches, as you might expect, coming from his popularity with Superdrag. Here is an artist who might just succeed in winning some converts to Christianity from his following in his mainstream band, while at the same time introducing those same listeners to sounds that have made up the rock and roll landscape from the time before they were born.
John Davis, glad to meet you.
By Scott Lake 2/23/2005
It’s been nearly ten years after Jars of Clay was at the birthing of the Christian crossover movement. Since then, it’s been no surprise to see a Christian artist garner mainstream success, but rarely does an artist do a sort of “reverse crossover.” John Davis, formerly of the Knoxville, TN based band, Superdrag, has done this. Having recently dropped his drug habit and accepting Christ, Davis made a move to record a gospel-oriented record.
What comes out of this “reverse crossover” is a mixed bag. Musically, Christian music has yet to see something of this level. Mixing everything from The Beatles to Brian Wilson, Davis shows that he’s fairly competent at what he does. The songs are catchy and full of great riffs and melodies, giving a nod to gospel, brit-pop, and blues.
Where this album begins to fall short is in the lyrics. Because Davis wanted to make a straight ahead gospel record, the lyrics seem rehashed and overdone. This could be from his “New Christian” status, but nonetheless, they decrease the legitimacy of the project. Christians have heard this stuff many times before, so one would wonder why Davis would think they’d need to hear it again. Davis’ motives are certainly commendable, but as an artist who has had such a creative and successful past, one would think that he would follow that frame of thinking.
It’s so hard to make a final verdict on an album that is bipolar as much as this one is. Musically, it’s got a lot going for it. Those who like to be challenged by the lyrics they listen to will not find a challenge in this album. One can only hope that Davis will return to his creative past on his next album.
Zach Delph 3/20/2005